Mark McMenamin

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Mark McMenamin
Born1957/1958 (age 61–62)[1]
ResidenceSouth Hadley, Massachusetts
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materUniversity of California, Santa Barbara, Ph.D.
Stanford University, B.S.
Known forEdiacaran fossils; Hypersea theory; Proterozoic supercontinent Rodinia[2]
Spouse(s)Dianna L. Schulte McMenamin
AwardsPresidential Young Investigator Award
Sigma Xi National Lecturer
2011 Irish Education 100 Award [2][3]
Scientific career
FieldsPaleontology, Geology
InstitutionsMount Holyoke College[2]

Mark A. S. McMenamin is an American paleontologist and professor of geology at Mount Holyoke College. He has contributed to the study of the Cambrian explosion and the Ediacaran biota.

He is the author of several books, most recently Deep Time Analysis (2018) and Dynamic Paleontology (2016). His earlier works include The Garden of Ediacara: Discovering the Earliest Complex Life (1998), one of the only popular accounts of research on the Ediacaran biota, and Science 101: Geology (2007). He is credited with co-naming several geological formations in Mexico, describing several new fossil genera and species, and naming the Precambrian supercontinent Rodinia.[4] The Cambrian archeocyathid species Markocyathus clementensis was named in his honor in 1989.[5]

Early life and career

McMenamin was born in Oregon,[1] earned his B.S. at Stanford University in 1979 and his PhD at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1984.[6] In 1980, while at Santa Barbara he met his future wife, Dianna, also a paleontology graduate student, with whom he would co-author several publications. He joined the staff at Mount Holyoke College in 1984.[7]

Origins of complex life

In 1995 McMenamin led a field expedition to Sonora, Mexico, that discovered fossils (585 million years old) which McMenamin argued belonged to a diverse community of early animals and Ediacaran biota.[8] The paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America where it was reviewed by Ediacaran expert James G. Gehling. In 2011, McMenamin reported the discovery of the oldest known adult animal fossils, Proterozoic chitons from the Clemente Formation, northwestern Sonora, Mexico.[9] Further up in this same stratigraphic sequence, McMenamin also discovered and named the early shelly fossil Sinotubulites cienegensis, a fossil that allowed the first confident Proterozoic biostratigraphic correlation between Asia and the Americas.[10] In Lower Cambrian strata higher in the stratigraphic sequence, McMenamin also discovered important stem group brachiopods belonging to the genus Mickwitzia.[11] During a Mount Holyoke College field trip to Death Valley, California, McMenamin and his co-authors found evidence indicating that the Proterozoic shelly fossil Qinella survived the Proterozoic-Cambrian boundary.[12]

In 2012 McMenamin proposed that the enigmatic Cambrian trace fossil Paleodictyon was the nest of an unknown animal, a hypothesis which, if supported, may be the earliest fossil evidence of parental behavior, surpassing previous findings by 200 million years.[13] In his 2019 article 'Cambrian Chordates and Vetulicolians', McMenamin described Shenzianyuloma yunnanense, a new genus and species of Vetulicolia interpreted as bearing myotome cones, a notochord, and gut diverticula in its posterior section. [14]


In an attempt to explain the unprecedented and rapid spread of vegetation over dry land surfaces during the middle Paleozoic, Mark and Dianna McMenamin proposed the Hypersea Theory.[7] Their Hypersea is a geophysiological entity consisting of eukaryotic organisms on land and their symbionts. By means of a process known as hypermarine upwelling, the expansion of Hypersea led to a dramatic increase in global species diversity and a one hundred-fold increase in global biomass.[15][16]

Critique of Neodarwinism

Mark McMenamin has repeatedly criticized conventional Neodarwinian theory as inadequate to the task of explaining the evolutionary process. Joining with Lynn Margulis and the Russian symbiogeneticists, McMenamin has argued that symbiogenesis theory is important as one means of addressing the gap in our understanding of macroevolutionary change in conventional Neodarwinian terms.[17]


Film and television
Year Title Role Notes
2006 Naked Science--Colliding Continents Miscellaneous Crew, Himself National Geographic
2007 How the Earth Was Made Himself History Channel
2013 America Unearthed Himself Committee Films TV Documentary


  • McMenamin, Mark A. S.; McMenamin, Dianna Schulte. (Jan 1990). The Emergence of Animals: The Cambrian Breakthrough. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-06646-5.
  • McMenamin, Mark A. S.; McMenamin, Dianna Schulte (1994). Hypersea: Life on the Land. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-07530-8.
  • McMenamin, Mark A. S. (1996). Carthaginian Cartography: A Stylized Exergue Map. Meanma Press. ISBN 0-9651136-1-2.
  • McMenamin, Mark A. S. (1998). The Garden of Ediacara: Discovering the Earliest Complex Life. Columbia University Press.
  • McMenamin, Mark A. S. (Jun 2007). Science 101: Geology. Science 101. Collins. ISBN 0-06-089136-X.
  • McMenamin, Mark A. S. (2009). Paleotorus: The Laws of Morphogenetic Evolution. Meanma Press. ISBN 978-1-893882-18-8.
  • McMenamin, Mark A. S. (2016). Dynamic Paleontology: Using Quantification and Other Tools to Decipher the History of Life. Springer. ISBN 978-3-319-22776-4.
  • McMenamin, Mark A. S. (2018). Deep Time Analysis: A Coherent View of the History of Life. Springer. ISBN 978-3-319-74255-7.


  1. ^ a b Macone, Steve (June 3, 2007). "Out there". The Boston Globe.
  2. ^ a b c "Mark McMenamin Faculty Profile". Mount Holyoke College. Retrieved 2011-10-11.
  3. ^ McGoldrick, Debbie, ed. (2011). "Mark McMenamin". The Irish Voice Third Annual Irish Education 100 Special Supplement: S38.
  4. ^ Meert, J. G.; Powell, C. M. (2001). "Assembly and breakup of Rodinia". Precambrian Research. 110: 1–8. Bibcode:2001PreR..110....1M. doi:10.1016/s0301-9268(01)00177-2.
  5. ^ Debrenne, F.; Gandin, A.; Rowland, S. M. (1989). "Lower Cambrian bioconstructions in Northwest Mexico (Sonora). Depositional setting, paleoecology and systematics of archaeocyaths". Geobios. 22: 137–195. doi:10.1016/s0016-6995(89)80127-5.
  6. ^ "Mark McMenamin Professor of Geology". Mount Holyoke College Geology Department. Retrieved 2015-02-04.
  7. ^ a b Zimmer, Carl (October 1995). "Hypersea Invasion". Discover Magazine.
  8. ^ McMenamin, M. A. S. (1996). "Ediacaran biota from Sonora, Mexico". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 93: 4990–4993. Bibcode:1996PNAS...93.4990M. doi:10.1073/pnas.93.10.4990. PMC 39393. PMID 11607679.
  9. ^ McMenamin, M. A. S. (2011). "Fossil chitons and Monomorphichnus from the Ediacaran Clemente Formation, Sonora, Mexico". Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs. 43 (5): 87.
  10. ^ McMenamin, M. A. S. (1985). "Basal Cambrian small shelly fossils from the La Ciénega Formation, northwestern Sonora, Mexico". Journal of Paleontology. 59 (6): 1414–1425.
  11. ^ McMenamin, M. A. S. (1992). "Two new species of the Cambrian genus Mickwitzia". Journal of Paleontology. 66 (2): 173–182.
  12. ^ McMenamin, M. A. S.; Hughes, W. A.; McMenamin, J. M. (2013). "Surviving the Cambrian Explosion: Qinella from Death Valley, California". Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs. 45 (7): 112.
  13. ^ Barras, Colin (16 November 2012). "Leonardo fossil sketch may depict early nests". Nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2012.11841.
  14. ^ McMenamin, Mark A. S. (11 August 2019). "Cambrian Chordates and Vetulicolians". Geosciences. doi:10.3390/geosciences9080354.
  15. ^ McMenamin, M. A. S.; McMenamin, D. L. S. (1993). "Hypersea and the land ecosystem". BioSystems. 31: 145–153. doi:10.1016/0303-2647(93)90043-c.
  16. ^ McMenamin, M. A. S.; McMenamin, D. L. S. (1994). Hypersea: Life on the Land. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-07530-8.
  17. ^ Margulis, L.; McMenamin, M. A. S. (1990). "Kinetosome-centriolar DNA: Significance for endosymbiosis theory". Treballs de la Societat Catalana de Biologia. 41: 5–16.

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